It only took a few moments for Ravens Pro Bowl offensive guard Marshal Yanda and starting cornerback Lardarius Webb during their respective preseason debuts to prove that their surgically repaired limbs are sound and highly functional.
Yanda underwent shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff five days after the Super Bowl. Webb tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last October against the Dallas Cowboys.
Neither displayed any medical issues or experienced any apparent setbacks during a 34-27 preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers at M&T Bank Stadium.
"The knee, it's going to come along," Webb said after the game. "It's going to be good. I'm just happy to be out there with the guys. I left the game healthy."
During the Ravens' opening offensive drive of the first quarter, Yanda delivered a key block to open a hole for running back Ray Rice on a 13-yard run. Eight plays later, Yanda was involved in clearing a path for Rice on a 1-yard touchdown run to the left side.
"It felt pretty good," Yanda said. "The shoulder felt pretty strong. Obviously, I wish we could have played better as a team, but the shoulder felt good. So, that was definitely a plus."
Yanda left the game in the second quarter after a fairly solid outing where he appeared to knock off some rust after missing two preseason games.
"Marshal, from what I can tell, did well," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It's hard to see him from where I'm at, but it seemed like he was solid when he was in there."
Unlike Yanda, Webb didn't start. However, the $50 million cornerback was into the game after just one defensive snap.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton immediately threw in his direction, with Webb planting his feet and reacting aggressively for a tackle of wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. after he gained 9 yards. Just as he has during practice, Webb showed no signs of not trusting his knee.
"Once I got out there and made a tackle, being a player took over," Webb said. "It was back to old football, just playing football again. When I finally got back out there, it turned back to football. I move around in practice. It felt good to be out there. The thing I got the most out of it was being out there with the defense, smiling, having fun."
Webb saw significant action throughout the first half and had three tackles and one pass deflection by halftime.
"I thought he moved well and looked good and played well," Harbaugh said. "So that was good to see. Those are big plusses for us."
When asked if this means he's ready for a Sept. 5 season opener against the Denver Broncos, Webb was noncommittal.
"I'm just going to leave it up to the coaches, leave it up to Harbs," Webb said. "I'll be ready for his decision and do whatever the coaches want."
Ravens left offensive guard Kelechi Osemele is regarded as a promising young player, but this qualifies as arguably his worst performance since being drafted in the second round last year.
Osemele struggled mightily against Panthers first-round defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who had two tackles for losses in the first half.
When Yanda was substituted for Jah Reid in the second quarter, Panthers second-round defensive tackle Kawann Short dominated the backup lineman.
Reid badly missed a block on Short, allowing him to burst into the backfield to sack quarterback Joe Flacco.
When Flacco had an interception returned 71 yards for a touchdown by veteran cornerback Drayton Florence in the second quarter, his intended target was wide receiver Tandon Doss.
It wasn't immediately clear what route Doss was supposed to be running.
Doss and Flacco obviously weren't on the same page.
"That was a miscommunication on a sight adjustment," Harbaugh said. "Joe's throwing to the sight. Tandon obviously was not running the sight, and that's what happens when that happens."
Doss has had a disappointing preseason with rookies Aaron Mellette and Marlon Brown starting to overtake him for playing time.
Doss caught just one pass for 5 yards.
"Pretty much, we just have to communicate better," Doss told The Baltimore Sun. "It's on both of us."
Panthers star middle linebacker Luke Kuechly roamed all over the field, making several big plays in the first half with seven tackles, one interception, a forced fumble and two pass deflections.
One of them was taken away in the second quarter, though, when safety Charles Godfrey's interception of a Flacco pass was nullified after Kuechly was flagged for unnecessary roughness for a high hit on a defenseless Mellette.
It didn't matter. Two plays later, Kuechly read Flacco's eyes and jumped in front of a pass intended for tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and returned the interception 29 yards. It led to a 54-yard field goal by former Ravens kicker Graham Gano.
"We were in a coverage, and I was reading the quarterback," Kuechly said. "I was able to make a break on the ball on that one."
Earlier in the second quarter, Kuechly knocked the football out of the hands of running back Bernard Pierce with the fumble recovered for a touchdown by Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis. Pierce didn't fumble once in 108 carries as a rookie, but Kuechly made him cough it up.
"I've always been a huge fan of Luke," Newton said. "He made an unbelievable play on that interception. I know what a competitor he is and how hard he works. He's only reached the tip of the iceberg."
Poly NFL connection
Ravens wide receiver LaQuan Williams, a former Maryland player, wasn't the only Poly graduate on the field Thursday night.
The Panthers have two Baltimore natives and Poly grads on their roster: safety Ricardo Silva and offensive lineman Justin Wells.
Silva is a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder who transferred to Hampton after starting his career at Bowie State. He began his career with the Detroit Lions, recording 37 tackles and one interception last season, and joined the Panthers earlier this month. He's listed fourth on the depth chart.
Wells is a 6-foot-4, 325-pounder from St. Augustine's in North Carolina. He's listed third on the Panthers depth chart.
Since trading wide receiver David Reed to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for running back Delone Carter, the Ravens are now $5.679 million under the NFL salary-cap limit of $123 million.
The Ravens liked Carter, a 2011 Colts fourth-round draft pick, coming out of Syracuse. Reed wasn't going to make the team if he hadn't been traded, according to a league source.
The top salary-cap figures on the roster are outside linebacker Terrell Suggs ($13.02 million), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata ($11.5 million), Yanda ($7.45 million), Webb ($7.385 million), Flacco ($6.8 million), Rice ($5.75 million) and offensive tackle Michael Oher ($4.95 million).
The Ravens scratched several players, including Carter, weak-side inside linebacker Jameel McClain (spinal cord contusion), defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore (right anterior cruciate ligament), center Ryan Jensen (foot surgery), wide receiver Deonte Thompson (sprained left foot), tight end Ed Dickson (right hamstring), who returned to practice on a limited basis this week, tight end Dennis Pitta (right hip surgery) and rush linebackers Adrian Hamilton (right wrist) and Pernell McPhee (undisclosed). McPhee practiced this week, but underwent offseason groin surgery and has a history of knee issues. ... Carter hasn't practiced yet and hasn't been assigned a jersey number. ... Olympic gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps was on the Ravens' sideline before kickoff.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun